President Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said yesterday that they cannot accept a nuclear-armed Iran, and the Israeli leader accused the Islamic republic of “fanaticism.”
After a private meeting at the White House, they told reporters that they want to continue to isolate Iran until it halts uranium-enrichment efforts, which they think is part of a nuclear-weapons program.
“It’s very important for the world to unite with one common voice to say to the Iranians that if you choose to continue forward, you’ll be isolated. And one source of isolation would be economic isolation,” Mr. Bush told reporters.
The United States has let European nations take the lead in the slow diplomacy to try to block Iran’s nuclear program, but Mr. Bush — with Israel as a very interested partner — has pushed for stronger statements and specific consequences should Iran continue the program.
Mr. Olmert said that Israel, which is widely thought to have a nuclear arsenal, is worried about statements by Iran’s president threatening the existence of Israel and that those threats are “not something that we can tolerate or would ever tolerate, and certainly not when we know that he is trying to possess nuclear weapons.”
Briefing reporters after the White House meeting, Olmert spokeswoman Miri Eisin said the Iran problem and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process took up much of the discussions, with broad areas of agreement on both issues between the two leaders.
Mrs. Eisin said Israel was “not against compromise” with Tehran so long as the Islamic republic did not develop or acquire nuclear weapons. Iran, she said, “needs to fear the implications if they don’t compromise” on the nuclear issue.
The spokeswoman sidestepped questions about an upcoming Iraq report by a bipartisan commission led by former Secretary of State James A. Baker III. The panel, which met with Mr. Bush yesterday just before Mr. Olmert did, is said to be considering several major changes to U.S. policy on Iraq and the Middle East, including direct talks with Syria and Iran, and pressure on Israel to seek a peace deal with moderate Palestinians.
Mrs. Eisin said that Israel recently has seen “very positive” statements by moderate Arab leaders in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan about reviving the peace process and that Mr. Olmert repeatedly has stressed willingness to meet with Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas “at any time.”
The spokeswoman said that Mr. Bush and Mr. Olmert had a “long discussion” on Iraq, and that Mr. Olmert gave assurances that “Israel will be behind America whatever the U.S. chooses to do.”
There were no major points of disagreement in the talks, Mrs. Eisin said.
“Not every visit is a dramatic one,” she said. “This was not a dramatic visit.”